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The Computer And Its History Essay, Research Paper

The Computer and Its History



I.Introduction ??..????????????????????????.4

II.Early Tools and Their Intentors??????????????????..4

III.Electro-Mechanical and Electrical Calculating Machines???????…6

IV.Random Access Memory (RAM) Computers Come into the Lime-Light?..8

V.Change was Good????????????????????????9

VI.The Computer Gets Cheap, Even the Average “Joe” Can Buy One ?… 10

VII. Conclusion??????????????????????????…11



1. Abacus Illustration 16

2.Slide Ruler Illustration 17

3.Early Calculator Illustration 18

4.Punch Card Illustration 19

5.ENIAC Illustration 20

6. ENIAC Illustration???????????????????21

7. ENIAC Illustration???????????????????22

8. Vacuum Tubes Illustration???????????????.23

9. Neumann Machine Illustration?????????????..24

10. UNIVAC Illustration?????????????????…25

11. First IBM Computer Illustration?????????????26

12. Integrated Chip Illustration?????????.?????..27

13. Altair Illustration???????????????????..28

14. Apple 1 lllustratuin??????????????????..29

15. Apple 2 IIIustration??????????????????.30

16. IBM 60 IIIustration??????????????????..31

The Computer and Its History


Only once in a lifetime will an invention come about to touch every aspect of our lives. Such a device that changes the way we work, live, and play is a very special one, indeed. “A machine that has done all this and more now exists in nearly every business in America and one out of every two households.” (Hall, 156) The computer is this machine. The electronic computer has been around for several decades; however; its ancestors have been working for over 4,000 years.

Early Tools and Their Inventors

The abacus, was the first known ancestor of the computer. (Soma, 32) It was very simple in design, but helped early people with arithmetic operations. The abacus is simply a wooden rack holding parallel wires on which beads are strung. When these beads are moved along the wire according to programming rules that the user must memorize, all ordinary math, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

The following step in computer technology came with John Napier’s Bones. This was similar to a slide ruler. Napier’s invention allowed not only four-function math, but also logarithms and the decimal point. This in-turn laid the foundation for the fraction system. Further more, personal computers of today and high-end computers all base their microprocessing on complex logarithms.

In 1694, a great step was made by Blaise Pascal the father of computers invented the calculator. It could only add numbers and they had to be entered by turning dials. It was designed to help Pascal’s farther who was a tax collector. (Soma, 32) In the mid 1700s Jacquard, a Frenchman who wanted to improve his weaving looms so that they would work longer with out need of changing needle position by hand. Therefore, he made a loom that followed a program that was found punch cards. This looms followed the holes in the card each would move the needle right or left to its need. However, the programmed looms were dropped because too much time was needed to make punch cards for the machine. (Gulliver, 101)

In the early 1800s, Charles Babbage improved on Jachquards invention. Baggage knew there was a great need for a better way of processing math problems. Between 1750 and 1850 many advances were made in Mathematics and Physics. Many of new advances involved complex calculations and formulas that were very time consuming for human minds. Babbage made a punch hole card driven calculator. It four-function math and could use the decimal point. Different operations used different cards. The maker of these cards was Lady August Lovelace, who was the first programmer and was a woman. She wrote all the instustions for Babbage machine.

These advantages were noted by commercial industries and soon led to the development of improved punch-card business-machine systems by International Business Machines (IBM), Remington-Rand, Burroughs, and other corporations. By modern standards the punched-card machines slow, typically processing from 50 to 250 cards per mintue, with each card holding up to 80 digits. At the time however, punched cards were an enormous step forward; they provided a means of input, output, and memory storage on a massive scale. For more than 50 years following their first use, punched card machines did the bulk of the world’s business computing and a good portion of the computing work in science. (Chposky, 73) However, the punch cards had drawbacks that needed to be fixed or replaced.

Electro-Mechanical and Electrical Calculating Machines

By the late 1930s punched-card machines techniques had become so well established and reliable that Howard Hathaway Aiken, in collaboration with engineers at IBM, undertook construction of a large automatic digital computer based on standard IBM electromechanical parts. Aiken’s machine was large, 51yds in length by 8yds wide by 2yds high. The mass of metal had 3000 connections and used 450 miles of copper wiring. This massive was named the Harvard Mark I, it handled 23-digit numbers and could perform all four arithmetic operations. In addition, it had special built-in programs to handle logarithms and trigonometric functions. The Mark I was controlled from prepunched paper tape. Output was by cardpunch and electric typewriter. This was the first printer, different from todays but did the basic job. It was slow, requiring 3 to 5 seconds for multiplication, but it was fully automatic and could complete long computations without human intervention. (Chposky, 103)

The Colossus was the first known government built computer. The Colossus built by the British Secret service during World War I. It was used to break the German war codes and successful. The British knew the codes of the Germans thought the war and knew when German was going to attack and used this to a great deal to save lives. The Colossus, not only helped England in WWI but, was also used in WWII. However, did not break the codes of the Germans in that war. The British just had to wait for a better computer.

The outbreak of World War II produced a desperate need for computing capability, especially for the military. After seeing what the Colossus did for the British every had need and for a computer. New weapons systems were produced which needed trajectory tables and other essential data. (Soma, 81) In 1942, John P. Eckert, John W. Mauchley, and their associates at the University of Pennsylvania decided to build a high-speed electronic computer to do the job. This machine became known as ENIAC, for ” Electrical Numerical Integrator and Calculator”. It could multiply two numbers at the rate of 300 products per second, by finding the value of each product from a multiplication table stored in its memory. “ENIAC was thus about 1,000 times faster than the previous generation of computers.” (Dolotta, 47)

ENIAC used vacuum tubes 18,000 at that, was 1800 square feet of floor space, and used 180,000 watts of electricity a day. It used punched-card input and output. The ENIAC was very difficult to program because one had to essentially re-wire it to perform whatever task you needed the computer to do. It was, however, efficient in handling the particular programs for which it had been designed. ENIAC is generally accepted as the first successful high-speed electronic digital computer and was in many applications from 1946 to 1955. (Dolotta, 105)

Mathematician John von Neumann was very interested in the ENIAC. I n 1945, he undertook a theoretical study of computation that demonstrated that a computer could have a very simple. In addition, be able to execute any kind of computation effectively by means of proper-programmed control without the need for any changes in hardware. Von Neumann came up with incredible ideas for methods of building and organizing practical, fast computers. “These ideas, which came to be referred to as the stored-program technique what he called “random access memory,” became fundamental for future generations of high-speed digital computers and were universally adopted.” (Hall, 73)

Random Access Memory (Ram) Computers Comes into the Lime-Light

The first wave of modern programmed electronic computers to take advantages of Von’s ideas appeared in 1947. This group included computers using random access memory (RAM), which is a memory designed to give almost constant access to any particular piece of information. (Hall,75) These machines had puched-card or puched-tape input and output devices and RAMs of 1000-word capacity. Physically, they were much more compact than ENIAC: some were about the size of a grand piano and required 2500 small electron tubes. This was a grand improvement over the earlier machines. The first-generation (186) stored-programs computers required considerable maintenance, usually attained 70% to 80% reliable operations, and were used for 8 to 12 years. Typically, they were programmed directly in machine language, although by the mid-1950s progress had been made in several aspects of advanced programming. This group of machines included EDVAC and UNIVAC, the first commercial available computers. (Hazewindus, 155)

The UNIVAC was developed by John W. Mauchley and John Eckert Jr. son to John Eskert who built the ENIAC. Together they formed the Mauchley-Eckert Computer Company Corporation, Americas first computer company in the 1940s. During the development of the UNIVAC, they began to run short of funds and sold their company to the larger Remington-Rand Corporation. Eventually they built a working UNIVAC computer. It was delivered to the U.S. Census Bureau in 1951 where it was used to help tabulate the U.S. population. (Hazewindus, 124)

Change Was Good

Early in the 1950s, two important engineering discoveries changed the electronic computer field. The first computers were made with vacuum tubes, but by the late 1950s computer were being made with transistors, which were smaller, less expensive, more reliable, and more efficient. (Shallis, 40)

These new technical discoveries rapidly found their way into new models of digital computers. Memory storagecapacities increased 800% in commercially available machines by the early 1960s and speeds increased by an equally large margin. These machines were very expensive to purchase or, to rent and were especially expensive to operate because, of the cost of hiring programmers to perform the complex operations the computer ran. Such computers were typically found in large computer centers-operated by industry, government, and private labs-staffed with many programmers and support personnel. (Rogers, 77) By 1956, 76 of IBM’s large computer mainframes were in use, compared with only 46 UNIVACs. (Chposky, 125)

During this time, the major computer manufactures began to offer a range of computer capabilities, as well as various computer-related equipment. These included input means such as consoles and card feeders; output means such as a page printers, cathode-ray-tube displays, and graphing devices; and optional magnetic tape and magnetic disk file storage. These found wide use in business for such applications as accounting, payroll, inventory control, ordering supplies, and billing. Central processing units (CPUs) for such purposes did not need to be very fast arithmetically and were primarily used to access large amounts of record on file. The greatest number of computer systems were delivered for the large applications, such as in hospitals for keeping track of patients records, medications, and treatments given. They were also used in automated library systems and in database systems such as the Chemical Abstracts Systems, where computers records now on file cover nearly all chemical compounds. (Rogers, 98)

The Computer Gets Cheap, Even the Average “Joe” Can Buy One

The trend during the 1970s was, to some extent, away from extremely power, centralized computational centers and toward a broader range of applications for less-costly computer systems. Most continuous-process manufacturing, such as petroleum refining and electrical-power distribution systems, began using computers of relatively modest capability for controlling and regulating their activities. In the 1960s, the programming of applications problems was an obstacle to the self-sufficiency of moderate-sized on-site computer installations, but great advances in applications programming languages removed these obstacles. Applications languages became available for controlling a great range of manufacturing processes, for computer operations of machine tools, and for many other tasks. (Osborne, 146) In 1971 Marcian E. Hoff, Jr., an engineer at Intel Corporation, invented the microprocessor and another stage in the development of the computer began. (Shallis, 121)

A new revolution in computer hardware was now well under way, involving miniaturization of computer-logic circuitry and of component manufacture by what are called large-scale integration techniques. In the 1950s, it was realized that “scaling down” the size of electronic digital computer circuits and parts would increase speed and efficiency and improve performance. However, at that time the manufacturing methods were not good enough to accomplish such s task. About 1960 photo-printing of conductive circuit boards to eliminate wring became highly developed. Then it became possible to build resistors and capacitors into the circuitry by photographic means. (Rogers, 142) in the 1970s entire assemblies, such as adders, shifting registers, and counters, became available on tiny chips of silicon. In the 1980s very large scale integration (VLSI), in which hundreds of thousands of transistors are placed on a single chip,, became increasingly common. Many companies, some new to the computer field, introduced in the 1070s programmable minicomputers supplied with software packages. The size-reduction trend continued with the introduction of personal computers, which are programmable machines small enough and inexpensive enough to be purchased and used by individuals. (Rogers, 153)

One of the first of such machines was introduced in January 1975. Popular Electronics magazine provided plans that would allow any electronics wizard to build his own small, programmable computer for about $380. (Rose, 32) the computer was called Altair 8800. Its programming involved pushing buttons and flipping switches on the front of the box. A smaller version of it was used on some Apollo Missions. (Chposky, 157) Although, many orders came in for the Altair and several companies got their start in computing though the Altair. For example, Steve Jobs and Steve Woznial, founders of Apple Computer, built a much cheaper, yet more productive version of the Altair and turned their hobby into a business. (Fluegelman, 16)

After the introduction of the Altair 8800, the personal computer industry became a fierce battleground of competition. IBM had been the computer industry standard for well over a half-century. They held their position as the standard when they introduced their first personal computer, the IBM Model 60 in 1975. (Chposky, 156) However, the newly formed Apple Computer Company released its own personal computer, the Apple II (Apple I was the first computer designed by Jobs and Woziniak garage, which was not produced on a wide scale). (Rose, 39) Software was needed to run the computers as well. Microsoft developed a Disk Operating System (MS-DOS) for IBM computer while Apple developed its own software system. (Rose, 37) Because Microsoft had now set the software standard for IBMs, every software manufacturer had now make their software compatible with Microsoft. This made the process of make software cheaper and easier. That would lead to huge profits for Microsoft. (Cringley, 163)

The main goal of the computer manufactures was to make the computer as affordable as possible while increasing speed, reliability, and capacity. Nearly every computer manufacturer accomplished this and computers popped up everywhere. Computers were in businesses keeping track of inventories. Computers were in colleges aiding students in research and writing papers. Computers were in laboratories making complex calculations at high speeds for scientist and physicists. The computer had made its mark everywhere in society and built up a huge industry. (Cringley, 174)

The future is promising for the computer industry and its technology. The speed of processors is expected to double every year and half in the coming years. The processors running today have a top speed of 400MHz, which could risen by the time this paper is read. As manufacturing techniques are further perfected, the prices of computers systems are expected to steadily fall. However, since the microprocessor technology will be increased, its higher costs will offset the drop in price of older processors. In other words, the price of new computer will stay about the same from year to year, but technology will steadily increase. (Zachary, 42)


Since the end of World War II, the computer industry has grown from a standing start into one of the biggest and most profitable industries in the United States. It now comprises thousands of companies, making everything from multi-million dollar high-speed supercomputers to printout paper and floppy disks. It employs millions of people and generates hundreds of billions of dollars in sales each year. (Malone, 192) Surely, the computer has influenced every aspect of people’s lives. It has affected the way people work and even play. It has made everyone’s life easier by doing difficult work for people. The computer truly is one of the most incredible inventions in history.


Aumiaux, M. Microprocessor Systems. New York: John Wiley & Sons. 1997.

Avatar, Singh. 16-Bit and 32-Bit Micoprocessors: Architecture, Software, and Interfacing Techniques: New Jersey. Englewood Cliffs. 1991.

Chposky, James. Blue Magic. New York: Facts on File Publishing. 1988.

Cringley, Robert X. Accidental Empires Readings, Ma: Addison Wesley Publishing, 1992.

Dolotta, TA Data Processing: 1940-1985. New York: John Wiley & Sons. 1985.

Fluegelman, Andrew. A New World, MacWorld. San Jose, Ca: MacWorld Publishing, February 1984 (Premier Issue).

Hall, Peter. Silicon Landscapes. Boston: Allen & Irwin, 1990.

Givone, Donald D; Rosser, Robert P. Microprocessors/Microcomputers. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company. 1980.

Gulliver, David. Silicon Valley and Beyond. Berkeley Ca: Berkeley Area Government Press, 1981.

Hazewindus, Nico. The U.S. Microelectronics Industry. New York: Pergamon Press, 1988

“History of Computers in Pictures.” www.gprep.pvt.k12.md.us/~music/compskils/images/abacus3.jpg Online. 3/5/98.

Jacobs, Christopher W. “The Altair 8800″, Popular Electronics. New York: Popular Electronics Publishing, January 1975.

Malone, Michael S. The Big Scare; The U.S. Computer Industry. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1985.

Mitchel, H.J. 32-Bit Microprocessors. Boston: CRC Press. 1991.

Rogers, Mverett M. Silicon Valley Fever. New York: Basic Books, Inc. Publishing, 1984.

Shallis, Michaels. The Silicon Idol. New York: Shocken Books, 1988.

Soma, John T. The History of the Computer. Toronto: Lexington Books, 1976.

“The Computer Underground” www.undergrounder.com/computers/ Online. 3/21/98.

Titus, Chistopher A. 16-Bit Microprocessors. Indiana: Howard W. Sams & Co. Inc., 1982.

Transcript: “Triumph Of The Nerds.” Hosted by Robert Cringely, PBS Productions: www.pbs.org/nerds/part1.htm and www.pbs.org/nerds/part2.htm Online. 3/4/98.

Zachary, William. “The Future of Computing”, Byte Mag. Boston: Byte Publishing, August 1997.


Slide Ruler

The Early Calculator

A Punch Card




Vacuum Tubes

The Neumann Machine


The First IBM Computer

The Integrated Circuit


The Apple I

The Apple II

The IBM 60

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